Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja
Baring any last minute change, the duo of the Minister of Communication Technology, Adebayo Shittu; and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, will appear before the Senate Committee on Communications this week to shed more light on the fine of N780 billion imposed on the Mobile Telecommunications Network, MTN Nigeria Limited by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
Similarly, the Executive Vice-Chairman of the NCC, Professor Umar Garba Danbatta, Accountant-General of the Federation and the Chief Executive Officer of the MTN Nigeria have also been summoned for the same purpose.
There is claim that the the MTN Nigeria Limited has allegedly paid N50 billion to the Federal Government.
But the quartet have been summoned by the Senator Gilbert Nnaji-led Committee to explain their involvement in the claim.
Their invitation was contained in a statement by the Committee, which is dated March 3, 2016, is entitled: “Urgent legislative intervention on the alleged controversial payment of N50 billion by telecom service provider, MTN, with regard to the fine of N780 billion imposed on it by NCC”.
The Committee noted that, in the course of its oversight function, specifically in relation to the sanction of N780 billion imposed on MTN, NCC could not offer any proof of receiving money from MTN.
It said that curiously, it was reported that MTN was rather misguided to lodge the said N50 billion into the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s Recovery Account, which is specially designated for recovered looted funds.
The Committee noted that it is of the view that such payment, if actually well-intended, ought to have passed through the NCC, instead of circumventing the regulatory agency in the overall process.
“The rushed payment and subsequent withdrawal of the MTN-instituted legal action is not only suspicious, but constitutes a grave economic and financial infraction, as well as brazen breach of due process in relation to payment of fines,” it read in part.
The development, it said, calls for a serious investigation in line with the zero-tolerance for corruption stance of the Federal Government.
The Committee said that it resolved to legislative intervention, given the public outcry the transaction has continued to generate.
It explained that, as part of its statutory obligations, it has risen to the challenge of comprehensively reviewing the circumstances surrounding the entire process with a view to straightening the records, as well as ensuring that the country was not short-changed.
“The attention of the Senate Committee on Communications has been drawn to widespread media publications particularly quoting the Honourable Minister of Communication Technology, Adebayo Shittu, as claiming that the Mobile Telecommunications Network, MTN, Nigeria Limited has made a down payment of N50 billion to the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, relative to the fine of N780 billion that was imposed on the service provider by the agency.
“The Committee wishes therefore to state clearly that going by the records of NCC whose constitutional mandate it is to superintend the mobile network operations in the country, and also in the prevailing circumstance, reserves the sole right on behalf of the Federal Government, to receive payment of any sort; MTN has unfortunately not in any way complied or shown any commitment whatsoever in this regard.
“For the avoidance of doubt and in the course of the oversight function of the Committee specifically in relation to the sanction, NCC could not offer any proof of receiving money from MTN.
“Curiously, it was reported that MTN was rather misguided to lodge the said N50 billion into the CBN Recovery Account which is specially designated for the recovered looted funds.
“The committee is of the view that such payment if actually well-intended ought to have passed through NCC as against the criminal act of circumventing the regulatory agency in the overall process. This is a clear case of deliberate mischief.
“As such, the Committee is worried that the rushed payment and subsequent withdrawal of the MTN-instituted legal action is not only suspicious but constitutes a grave economic and financial infraction as well as brazen breach of due process in relation to payment of fines which to all intents and purposes calls for a serious investigation in line with the zero-tolerance for corruption stance of the Federal Government.
“The Committee also wonders why these willful contradictions would be orchestrated by those considered knowledgeable enough especially in the business of democratic governance.
“Furthermore the Committee, in strongly condemning this apparent national embarrassment recalls that only recently NCC imposed fines variously on some service providers which included MTN; and of course such fines were paid to NCC for onward transfer to the Federal Government coffers as the laws stipulate.
“Therefore, given the public outcry this crooked transaction has continued to generate, the Committee as part of its statutory obligations has risen to the challenge of comprehensively reviewing the circumstances surrounding the entire process with a view to straightening the records and also ensuring that the country is not short-changed.
“Consequently, it has officially summoned all those concerned to appear before it to shed full light on their extent of involvement and or, respective roles in the unacceptable abuse of office,” the statement read.
The UNION reports that the Committee has fixed Thursday, March 10, 2016 for those invited to appear before it.